More than 500,000 expats have returned to our shores since the beginning of the pandemic, seeking solace from uncertainty and flooding the property market. While the economic statistics of the pandemic-property paradigm are fascinating, there is an intrinsic human component to expats returning home. Dual-nationality couples who have spent years building their lives overseas are being forced to re-evaluate their lifestyles under extreme circumstances. COVID-19 has been an accelerant of breaking a decade long stagnant debate of ‘where are we going to call home?‘
The uncertainty of the pandemic has dramatically shifted our priorities and we all began re-evaluating what was important. For whatever reason, the lure of the expat lifestyle is dwindling for many, and the statistics show us that there is a desperate desire for overseas professionals to return home, to Australia, to a strong family network.
It’s quite common for professional couples with young families to comprise parents from different countries. Inevitably, they settle in a country that is home to one of the partners, but COVID is seeing more and more of the Australians in the partnership pose a compelling argument to move down under.
In the Lower North Shore, we’re seeing three distinct buyer groups of expats: those who never intended to return back to Australia but COVID has caused a 180; those who are proactively making plans to return while still overseas; and those who were always going to move back but have accelerated their plans. They are eager to remove themselves from one life and urgently set up another one across the other side of the world. And the dollar makes us an attractive purchasing destination too, depending on where they are currently residing
It has become customary for Australians overseas to return home at major life stages, whether that be before their children start school, grandchildren being born or retiring back home. However, in a world plagued with impending international border closures, spouses from opposing hemispheres are going head to head as new questions in the debate surface.
Where do we want to live if we have to live with COVID? What will be the safest option long term? Will we have family support available to us if we need it? Where will our children have the best quality of life if we are stuck in lockdowns?
As these conversations are unfolding in expat family homes across the world, the Australian-born spouse is coming out on top and they are boomeranging back home in droves.
Interestingly, expats who reside in countries with a stronger currency than ours are competing for premium properties with supercharged buying power. After residing in comparable real estate markets in the likes of Hong Kong, London, and New York, a magnifying glass is hovering over the prestige property market of the Lower North Shore as the next place to call home. I have spoken to many expatriate couples who were (and many who still are) determined on purchasing their new family home in our market after a decade of living abroad.
Our market holds some of the best streets in Sydney – think East Crescent Street in McMahons Point, Kirkoswald Avenue in Mosman – with its proximity to the CBD, whilst balancing that with seclusion and elevation. For expats with families, the accessibility to fantastic schools and intimate neighbourhoods with quiet leafy outlooks are major drawing cards. It’s a gem for returning expats looking to secure their life back in Australia. Remote working has made it possible for professionals to work from anywhere, even another country, and expats are searching for multi-purpose properties with large living spaces, functional layouts and private home offices.
It’s an incredible market. Properties of high calibre aren’t common and are highly sought after. When you can reside close to the waterfront, a stone’s throw from the city, in a beautiful tranquil community – would you really want to live anywhere else?
And compared to comparable properties in Hong Kong, London, New York – ours still appear undervalued.
Despite the ‘Delta Dampener’ throwing a spanner in our COVID recovery, the current lockdowns across New South Wales and Victoria are doing little to deter expats from making the move.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Australia was lauded across the globe for its response to COVID-19. Harsh lockdowns, border closures, and world class contact tracers, we were a beacon of light in a forever impending dark tunnel. From a global standard, Australia is still seen as relatively safe. Expatriate couples are comparing Australia’s average 1,500 daily case numbers, for example, to that of the UK average of around 30,000.
According to global property researcher, Knight Frank, Sydney’s luxury home market is set to grow faster than any other major city in the world. As a new wave of potential buyers, expats undoubtedly added extra pressure to an already competitive property market in the Lower North Shore.
Rampant demand and limited stock propelled prices upwards. Many are determined not to miss out and are securing properties sight unseen. Facetime inspections and video walkthroughs by buyers’ agents became the norm at property viewings. Expats were ready to buy ‘as is’ to avoid the inconvenience of relocating to rental properties when they returned.
If you would like to discuss the current market and your requirements, please get in touch with Bernard.